This review was written for the theatrical release of "My Brother."
To accentuate the positive, writer-director Anthony Lover's "My Brother" features two actors with Down syndrome, ages 28 and 8, who are wonderful. Indeed the intelligence and sensitivity of their performances challenges common assumptions about the abilities of the mentally handicapped. It is no exaggeration to state in the case of the elder actor, Christopher Scott, who plays a major supporting role, that his is the best and most natural performance in the film.
The movie, though, is a moralistic black drama that makes its points with a heavy hand and unconvincing story developments. Audiences for the film, which opened last week in 17 cities, will be highly limited even among black filmgoers.
The extremely foolish involvement of an unsuccessful black stand-up comic, Isaiah (Nashawn Kearse), in a crime deal in New York triggers a moment of truth for two brothers as well as extended flashbacks to their childhood. In the latter, their mom (Vanessa L. WIlliams), as she slowly dies from the ravages of TB, desperately tries to get her young sons adopted together so that Isaiah (Rodney Henry) can continue to look after his special brother, James (Donovan Jennings).
She fails to do so, but Isaiah does find a way for them to be together. The movie, however, never explains how the two managed to grow up without adult supervision.
In present day, the story's climax feels false as do the details of how the crime deal goes south. Characters are sketched in the most rudimentary ways. A brief subplot about Isaiah's flirtation with a white woman (Tatum O'Neal) is entirely superfluous. Tech credits are modest as the budget permitted few locations.